McMillan: Fact Vs. Fiction




Fact v. Fiction


  • VMP’s plan creates three parks, including an expansive 6.25-acre central park with a community center and pool. If you add in the South Service Court and other public gathering places, there will be a total of 12 acres of new, public, open and green space. Specifically, of the 3½ block site, the majority – almost 2 blocks – will be open and green space distributed throughout the site.
  •  World-renowned landscape architects Nelson Byrd Woltz will design the public green space. They are famous for their work with urban parks, have garnered over 80 national and regional awards and have been featured in many national and international publications. This community will soon have one of the largest and best-designed parks not only in the District, but also in the region and in the country.
  •  While there was once a small park on the federal side of the McMillan site (near the reservoir, on the west side of First Street), the McMillan land that VMP is redeveloping was never a park. Historically, it was a working industrial site with manholes dotting the landscape every few feet, providing access for workers to the underground cells. In order to deliver water to the city, the site was in use all day and night, cleaning and pumping water.
  •  When the McMillan Sand Filtration Plant first opened, Olmsted, Jr. was commissioned to design a walking path around it that would offer residents a view without disturbing the daily work of the site.  This Olmsted Walk is being restored as part of the plan and will surround the entire redevelopment, connecting the parks and open spaces, providing engaging access and offering tremendous views of both the site and surrounding landmarks.  Every step of the walk will be publicly accessible and maintained. Finally, the fences on the site will be down, and there will be a park for residents to use and enjoy.
  • The very foundation of the VMP plan is a $22 million preservation program that will create exemplary design compatible with this historic landmark.
  •  The majority of the above grade structures will be preserved.  Every silo, every regulator house, every washer and every basin will be preserved and the historic courts will be maintained with special pavers.
  •  While the plan includes repurposing of underground cells, it is not feasible to place grocery retail inside the chambers or use the underground cells for foundation. Not only have retailers expressed opposition to the idea of an underground location here from a sales perspective, but the cost of making the cells safe enough for this type of use alone would make rental rates prohibitive for community and retail uses alike.
  •  Two underground cells (each the size of a football field) will be preserved, and the current plan includes repurposing Cell 14 for retail use.  Cell 28 will be preserved to view through the community center, as part of the planned memorialization.   The park will incorporate many features of a “cell with the lid off” as way of further using the unique structures of the site.
  •  The VMP plan incorporates water as a theme related to the history of the site. For example, the historic fountain currently located on the federal site will be relocated to the site. There will be spray grounds for children, a 25-meter pool inside the community center, a bio pond for water management and water features incorporating the historic silos.  There will also be historical memorialization, including community-planned and executed self-tours.
  •  The Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), in a unanimous vote found that VMP’s revised master plan “has been developed to retain important character-defining features of the site sufficient to convey its historic characteristics.“
  • Buildings will increase in size to the north west of the site, while eastern and southern sides of the plan will step down to work with the scale of existing neighborhoods.
  •  Two thirds of the total area of the site will be open and green space.  The remaining one third of the site will include local serving retail with a premium grocery store anchor, restaurants, community and cultural space. There will also be housing and offices on site.
  •  VMP’s plan will result in 3,200 new, permanent jobs, 3,000 construction jobs and generate $1.2 billion in new tax revenues. 35% of the local contracting opportunities are required to go to certified local, small and disadvantaged businesses and more than half of all jobs created must be offered to District residents.
  • On October 31st, 2013, the HPRB voted unanimously that VMP’s revised master plan and design concepts satisfied their requirements.  Because they cannot vote on demolition, they referred the project to the Mayor’s Agent.  The project now moves forward to the Mayor’s Agent and Zoning Commission for additional approvals.
  • In 2006, the National Capital Revitalization Corporation (NCRC) issued an RFQ to select a development partner for the McMillan site. The selection process spanned several months and included several community meetings and community votes. The initial process was conducted by former Mayor Fenty, signed off on by MAG leaders and later evaluated and held up by former Mayor Gray.
  •  The eventual five bidders were judged on their land development capabilities, vertical development capabilities and financial capacity.  Community members attended tours of the vertical development projects for all five bidders. In July 2007, Vision McMillan Partners was selected from among the five bidders by the NCRC because of their collective experience with complex redevelopment projects that present a number of overlapping priorities such as historic preservation and open space.

McMillan Park



The McMillan Slow Sand Filtration Plant is a unique historic landmark occupying a key location within the extended boundaries of the City of Washington as envisioned in the McMillan Commission’s Plan of 1901. It exemplifies the influence of the City Beautiful Movement on public works at the turn of the twentieth century.

The District-owned McMillan Site is a 25-acre parcel that was once part of the larger 92-acre McMillan Reservoir and Filtration Plant complex. The property is within the McMillan Park Reservoir Historic Landmark, which was listed in the District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites in 1991 and the National Register of Historic Places in February 2013.

History_Overview   History_Horse


Constructed between 1902 and 1905, the McMillan Slow Sand Filtration Plant was the first large-scale water purification facility in Washington, DC.

Between 1907 and 1911, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. was retained to develop a landscape design to transform the appearance of the larger reservoir and filtration plant site, beautifying the grounds with plantings and pedestrian paths. Open space for active recreation was located adjacent to the reservoir, and a perimeter pedestrian path was located on the site of the filtration plant.  People often enjoyed leisure activities at the park and played on the grounds adjacent to the McMillan Reservoir, west of First Street, NW.

History_Diagram   Historic Uses

In these historic Terence Vincent Powderly Photographic Prints (ca. 1911-1921) from The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, residents are seen visiting the areas adjacent to the McMillan Fountain, which is east of the Filtration site.

Terence Vincent Powderly Photographic Prints, 1911-1921. The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.   Terence Vincent Powderly Photographic Prints, 1911-1921. The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.   Terence Vincent Powderly Photographic Prints, 1911-1921. The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.   Terence Vincent Powderly Photographic Prints, 1911-1921. The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

In fact, McMillan Park may have been the first de-facto integrated park in Washington, DC. In these images (ca. 1930) from the Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Black opera singer Lillian Evanti and her son were photographed enjoying the park grounds.

Lillian Evanti (Lillian Evan Tibbs and son Thurlow Tibbs) at McMillan Park ca. 1930.  Scurlock Studio Records, ca. 1905-1994, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.   Lillian Evanti (Lillian Evan Tibbs and son Thurlow Tibbs) at McMillan Park ca. 1930.  Scurlock Studio Records, ca. 1905-1994, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.  Lillian Evanti (Lillian Evan Tibbs and son Thurlow Tibbs) at McMillan Park ca. 1930.  Scurlock Studio Records, ca. 1905-1994, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.   Lillian Evanti (Lillian Evan Tibbs and son Thurlow Tibbs) at McMillan Park ca. 1930.  Scurlock Studio Records, ca. 1905-1994, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

The park and the perimeter walk at the McMillan Site were enjoyed until the 1940s, when the site was permanently closed to the public during World War II. Operation of the filtration plant ended in 1986 and the federal government sold the property to the city for the purpose of redevelopment.

Next Life

Since the sale of the property, the McMillan Site has been the subject of numerous studies and development proposals. Community members, historians, landscape architects, urban planners, engineers, and developers have spent years studying the site and determining its existing conditions and future potential. In 2007, Vision McMillan Partners was selected to advise the District on the land development in exchange for exclusive rights to negotiate purchase of pads for vertical development. Today’s Master Plan is the result of that partnership.

–excerpted from Historic Preservation Report for the Proposed Redevelopment of the McMillan Slow Sand Filtration Plant. Prepared by EHT Traceries, Inc. July 28, 2010. Click here to view the report in its entirety.

Master Plan Update

Hello Everyone—

It’s been a long time since we’ve updated you on the progress of our plan for the McMillan Sand Filtration Site. We were presented a major challenge when asked to accommodate DC Water’s plan to use the site to help mitigate the flooding in Bloomingdale. So we sharpened our pencils and went to work. What we’ve planned addresses community concerns, HPRB feedback and accommodates DC Water. We are very proud to share this plan.


The major change involves setting aside the entire lower third of the site for a public park and amenities — 6.25 acres of green space plus 1.8 acres in the preserved South Service Court. A pond designed to help manage storm water recalls the creek bed beneath the site. The site still features a full-service community center with the amenities the community has requested—a pool, fitness center, classrooms, meeting space and catering kitchen.

In order to provide expanded green space, we have condensed the footprint of the development in the project—there are fewer residential units than originally planned and the site over all has lost about 10% of its square footage.

We’ve taken care in the details: the Olmstead Walk, defined by a double row of thornless Hawthorne trees, will bloom pink in the spring, turn a striking red in the fall, and have red berries in the winter. The park has amenities for all ages, places to play games and places to have a quiet picnic. You’ll be able to go the First Street side of park and from the preserved elevation, you’ll be able to look out across the adjacent reservoir, to Howard’s Campus or down toward the Mall—a view you’re currently denied by the fence on the site.


VMP has submitted this revised Masterplan to HPRB and expects to present it on April 4, 2013.  This plan reflects a labor of love—our respect for the landmark, our desire to provide amenities the community deserves, our pride in serving the Clean Rivers Project while creating 3,000 permanent jobs in the healthcare sector.
We’re very excited to have this culmination of the hard work of Bloomingdale, Stronghold, Eckington, Edgewood, Bates Area and LeDroit Park neighbors come together.

In addition to the upcoming hearing on April 4th, there will also be a rollout of the buildings planned for the site on April 27th, at a community-wide meeting. We have not secured the location yet, but will let you know as soon as we do.

Thank you for your input and work on this plan.

Tania Jackson

Neighborhood Outreach Coordinator





Economic Development Roundtable & City Paper Coverage

Economic Development Roundtable & City Paper Coverage

Hello! There’s even more in McMillan News:

On September 19th Councilmember Michael Brown, who chairs the Economic Development Committee, held a roundtable discussion on the McMillan Sand Filtration Site.  Ward Five Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie joined him for the entirety of the hearing, and staffers for other councilmembers were on hand to hear testimony from the Vision McMillan Partners, neighborhood residents, ANCs, civic associations and area organizations.

On September 20th, the City Paper covered the roundtable and gave a McMillan Update.  Taking over the Housing Complex blog, Aaron Weiner quotes Councilmember Brown who said, “I am extremely serious about getting past the rhetoric, the half-truths and frankly some of the deliberate false information that some chose to put out instead of having honest discussion.”    The article also garnered an interesting collection of comments… knowing the actual players involved, I think it’s safe to say that there are some playful masqueraders weighing in.

Finally, on September 21st, Housing Complex followed up with a quick look into what it would take to expand the park space across 1st Street to the west and into the site controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers, where the original McMillan Park existed.